Monday, October 6, 2008
Hikers camping near Lakes of the Clouds in July 1968
When this photo was taken in 1968 this was legal. On any given Saturday night in the summers of 1967 through 1970 there would be as many as 100 tents like these spread out all around the Lakes of the Clouds extending all the way over to Monroe Flats. Campers near the lakes used the toilet facilities at Lakes of the Clouds Hut. Campers out and away from toilets did not and with really awful results. Campers often built fires and/or used small gasoline stoves to cook on, they erected tents and dug drainage trenches around them, and they put down pads under their sleeping bags. They walked everywhere, indiscriminately across the tundra. They had come to enjoy the great outdoors and, for the most part, were unaware of the damage they were causing. A lot of us did not see the damage immediately, but all this activity and the sheer number of people engaged in it constituted overuse of the fragile alpine environment. Eventually it caused measurable degradation to the plant communities, water supplies, and the terrain itself. Unrestricted camping, particularly the over use of most-favored camp sites, caused sanitation problems and real environmental damage. Some damage was superficial and when the activity stopped the natural system bounced back but there were permanent scars.